Zelda Harris
Five on the 100 aliyah from UK list!

“The impossible becomes possible if only your mind believes it.”

Last week a prominent journalist in an Israeli English language newspaper wrote an interesting article on the Women Wage Peace movement. She suggested that it was a throwback to the sixties.  A kind of hippie “Love and Peace” fest. For good measure she also threw in Bob Dylan’s award of the Nobel Prize for literature. Pointing out that all she could think of when she heard the announcement, was Leonard Cohen’s lyrics.

I am a fan of Leonard Cohen who after his last concert in Israel made an enormous donation to groups engaged in seeking peace with our neighbours. His “Hallelujah” was not only sung in the Bet Daniel (reform) service at  Rosh Hashana  but also at least three times during the March of Hope, by people of every age and faith. It was also sung by the multitude in Rabin Square last night.

To belittle the movement  in which woman from all strata of the community in Israel and Palestine have come together as never before   at this time, when security issues are at the forefront of our daily existence, she did us a great disservice. How trite to say “I am far happier seeing thousands rallying for peace than demanding war or a ‘day of rage’!

Since I come from a similiar background to her and am old enough to be her mother, I feel that I must draw a parallel with the outstanding women’s movement in the UK in the 60’s and seventies, “The 35s”.

A few women (I was one) in London got together when they heard that a 35 year old Jewish woman in the Ukraine had been arrested.They protested, slept on the street caught the attention of the press and in a short time thousands of women had joined a movement to free the Jews in the USSR. There were those in the establishment who did not agree with their methods!

The strength of the movement was based on identifying with the “other” forging relationships. Even though they in the FSU were denied the basic freedoms which we enjoyed, their trust in us empowered them to commit courageous acts and intensified our activities to raise public awareness and move decision makers to act.

Hippies like freedom fighters were seeking a better way of life. Nothing wrong in flower power.However  the writer  did not rate women as being capable of bringing change. Furthermore she believes that women do not suffer more from the death of a child or loved one in war or through terrorism.

I think this writer has lost the plot as far as the purpose of the Women Wage Peace movement is concerned.  W.W.P  embraces Jewish, Arab Moslem, Druze and Christian women in Israel.  In  Palestine it draws women of all stripes and from every part of the West Bank.

Women are not only those who give birth to the fallen sons and daughters but have to pick up the pieces when  loss, violence or imprisonment affects the family.  When husbands or sons lie critically injured in hospital, return  from war traumatised or cease to become breadwinners. Women take their responsibility very seriously. What right has one to belittle the concept of women taking a step forward to unite and “fight” without violence for that which is a basic human right; to live in safety and security especially when one shares the same land which is precious to all.

Finally her reference to another woman Liberian Nobel Prize winner Leyma Gbowee,”who joined the battle cry for peace”quote.

Leyma was the woman from a backward violent society who in the midst of a bloody civil war against all odds, encouraged women to stand up (or lie down on the streets ). To protest incessantly with the threat of rape or death ever present, until a cruel Dictator was dethroned.

Her bottom line after deviating to the usual blame game against Palestinians was “normalization should be be normal not a crime against humanity”

Excuse me what is not normal about building relationships and trust?.

How can we call the present reality where one group of people live in total freedom and restrict the other at every turn,normal ? Dominating and depriving another people is not normal.Giving a hand and behaving like decent human beings is the most “normal” we can hope for at the moment. However the movement will grow the potential is incalculable!

“The impossible becomes possible if only………..”

About the Author
Zelda Harris first came to Israel 1949, aged 18. After living through the hardships of the nascent state, she returned to England in 1966. She was a founding member of the Women's Campaign for Soviet Jewry. In 1978, she returned with her family to Israel and has been active in various spheres of Israeli Society since. Together with the late Chaim Herzog, she founded CCC for Electoral Reform, was the Director of BIPAC in Israel, and a co-founder of Metuna, the Organisation for Road Safety, which received the Speaker of Knesset Quality of Life Award for saving lives on the roads and prevention of serious injury. She is now a peace activist, blogger for Times of Israel and is writing her life story.